Chinese private firm launches first space rocket

BEIJING: A suborbital rocket was launched into space on Thursday by a start-up in China’s burgeoning commercial aeronautics industry, as private firms snap at the heels of their dominant American rivals.

OneSpace, the Beijing-based company behind the launch, is one of dozens of Chinese rivals jostling for a slice of the global space industry, estimated to be worth about $339 billion by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and currently dominated by SpaceX and Blue Origin in the US.

Its nine-metre (30-foot) “Chongqing Liangjiang Star” rocket took off from an undisclosed test field in China’s northwest and reached an altitude of 273 kilometres before falling back to Earth, the company said in a statement. The launch aimed to demonstrate an early working model of the company’s OS-X series of rockets, designed to conduct research linked to suborbital flights.

By the end of the decade OneSpace expects to build 20 of the OS-X rockets, which would be capable of placing a 100-kilo (220-pound) payload into an orbit 800 kilometres from the Earth’s surface, said company spokesman Chen Jianglan.

The firm is also developing another type of rocket, the M-series, to compete in the growing microsatellite sector.

These small satellites are typically no larger than a shoebox and are used to monitor crops, weather patterns or disaster sites or used by universities for research purposes, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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